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Can I Still Have a Funeral if I Get Cryopreserved?

Reassure your loved ones: they will have a chance to give you a farewell - possibly not the last one.

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In most cultures, both past and present, funerals are an essential practice of social life. For some religions, specific ceremonies are considered necessary to guarantee the deceased eternal life. Yet, even for the less devout, funerals remain a meaningful ceremony. They allow the relatives of the person who has passed away to say goodbye. No one is prepared to face the death of a loved one, and this ceremony provides a space to remember, come to terms with what happened, and grieve.

But what if the loved one is a member of a cryonics organization, such as Tomorrow Bio? Can relatives arrange a funeral, or are they deprived of something that could be, in some cases, essential to their beliefs and well-being?

You Are Declared Legally Dead. And Then What?

The time after legal death varies greatly if you are a member of a cryonics organization, or if you’ve chosen a “traditional” death instead. By traditional, we mean any death that doesn’t involve a procedure of human cryopreservation and storage of the patient for an indefinite time. Let’s start with this case.

Death Without Cryonics

It’s hard to define what exactly happens after death, as it’s highly dependent on both local regulations (each country has different rules) and religious practices. In general, the patient is transferred, after legal death, to the mortuary - usually located within the hospital itself. If family members are in the hospital at the moment of death, they will probably have a few minutes by the bedside of the deceased. If not, they will visit them at the mortuary. 

Once the close relatives have chosen a funeral home, they will collect the body and prepare it for final rest. Depending on the circumstances of the patient's death, the family can decide whether they prefer an open or closed casket ceremony, or even embalming. In some cases, the deceased has left funeral arrangements in their last will, which must be followed. Otherwise, the family can decide whether to have a religious funeral and other funerary aspects. 

In any case, whichever course they choose, it usually takes several days before the body is buried or cremated. This is not ideal for cryonics. 

Legal Death & Cryopreservation

For high quality cryopreservation, the response of the standby team must be quick. They have to start the procedure as soon as possible after legal death to avoid ischaemic damage. In ideal cases, the team will be at the hospital before the time of death and can start to cool the body, and provide cardiopulmonary support upon legal death. There won’t be much time for “goodbyes”.

Once the temperature has been lowered and the body perfused with cryoprotective agents, the team transports the patient to the long-term storage facility. Here, the temperature is further lowered to -196°C. Finally, the body is placed in a cryogenic storage dewar where it will remain indefinitely till medical technology develops.  

As you can well imagine, given the very low temperature used and the delicacy of the procedure, there is no way the cryonics patient can lay in a coffin for several hours so that their loved ones can bid them farewell. So, what can be done?

coffin
If you want to arrange a funeral for your cryopreserved family member, you may decide to rent a coffin

Funeral Options for Cryopreserved Patients

Option 1 - Funeral Without the Body

The first option is to organize a funeral without the body of the cryopreserved person. They will remain inside the dewar awaiting possible future revival.

After all, funerals without the body or with a closed casket (when the body has been disfigured by violent death) happen relatively often. Family members and loved ones can meet, honor, and mourn. The advantages of this option are twofold: 

  • Firstly, a larger ceremony can be organized. If the person had many friends and family in their (first) life, it might be nice for them to attend the funeral.
  • Secondly, it can be done at a chosen location without the family having to travel to the place where the relative is in biostasis.

Option 2 - Small Ceremony at the Facility

If, on the other hand, family members prefer to organize a ceremony with the cryopreserved person 'present', there is a second option. With Tomorrow Bio there is the option of organizing a small ceremony at EBF's long-term storage facility in Rafz, Switzerland. 

Obviously, some precautions will have to be taken:

  • The ceremony should be arranged so that it doesn’t create any problems for cryopreserved patients and the various biostasis research procedures. 
  • The funeral can take place only after the patient is inside the dewar. In fact, once the patient arrives at the facility, they must remain  in a cooling box for about a week where the temperature is lowered to that of liquid nitrogen. Once cooling is complete, the patient is placed in the dewar. Only then will the family members be allowed to visit their loved one and organize a farewell ceremony.
  • A limited number of people can attend the funeral at the facility.
  • Finally, it will be up to the family to contact the funeral home that will perform the ceremony. We don't organize any ceremonies or get involved in any way.  Families have full authority to do it. At the moment, we have no contact with funeral homes in Rafz’s area.

Conclusion

Cryopreservation is a technique that could give people a chance at an extended life in the future. Although this idea might give some emotional comfort to love ones, it doesn't diminish the loss and grief. At Tomorrow Bio, we know that for many, having a funeral is important and we want our members and families to know that they have this option.

Are you looking for information on the cryopreservation procedure and related topics? Our editorial Insight is for you. Would you like your family members to consider this option with you? Here are some tips on how to talk to them about it.

Tomorrow Bio is the worlds fastest growing human cryopreservation provider. Our all inclusive cryopreservation plans start at just 45€ per month. Learn more here.